Study of the Month: Frankenstein and Monsters

by Siegfried Hornecker
10/30/2021 – Halloween is near — and inspired Siegfried Hornecker to search for compositions and studies that are suitable to this time of the year. After all, a good endgame study doesn't ask "Trick or treat?" but rather offers both. Enjoy!

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Study of the Month: October 2021

But first a word of caution:

There is nothing wrong with your monitor setup. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling this website. If we wish to make it scroll down, we will move the text. If we wish to make it harder to read, we will blur it to illiteracy. We will control the pieces. We will control the chessboard. We can sacrifice your queens or promote your pawns. We can change the game score to a draw, or show you a crystal clear winning combination. For the next hour, sit quietly, and we will control all that you read. We repeat: There is nothing wrong with your monitor setup. You are about to participate in endgame studies. You are about to experience the curiosity and humour which reaches from a single chess problem to... Study of the Month.

On 18 December 1839, Edward Nathan Frankenstein was born. His 1887 book "The Chess Problem" contained a selection of 400 chess problems, one of them an endgame study he composed. Like in Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein created a monster, which is the complete title of the book: "The chess problem; text-book with illustrations containing four hundred positions selected from the works of H. J. C. Andrews, E. N. Frankenstein, B. G. Laws and C. Planck."

 

Edward Nathan Frankenstein, "The Chess Problem" 1887. White to move and win

The solution to this and other studies in this article are as always replayable at the end.

Another composer, J. Frankenstein, has three endgame studies between 1893 and 1906 in the database, of which two are incorrect due to duals or other solutions and the remaining one is uninteresting. By looking at the sources where he published, it is likely he lived in Germany. As such, only a short excerpt (not replayable below) is given:

 

J. Frankenstein. Rigaer Tageblatt 1895. Commendation. White to move and win.

1.Ng4! Nf7 2.N:e5! are the only winning moves (aside from repetitions of the position), but after that it falls apart. The most egregious example is that after 2.-Nh8 3.K:h8 e3 4.Kg7 e2 the author didn't consider 5.Nd3 or 5.Nf3 which win immediately (Baltische Schachblätter, June 1898), and rather tactically wins the queen with 5.h8Q e1Q 6.Qe8+ Kd5 7.Qc6+ Kd4 8.Nf3+. That 6.Qc8+ wins in the same way isn't relevant in comparison, as at least that could be considered a minor dual if everything else worked as intended. So here the solution is a small monster.

More relevant to our topic: 6. Qc8+ was found by Paul Wiereyn in 2011, who despite his now 85 years is not only a chess composer, but also a well-known chess and Sudoku solving tool programmer. He wrote APWin, a GUI for Alybadix, which is a solving monster by Ilkka Blom.

Garry Kasparov once in his best times was called an "all-seeing monster with eight eyes". So we can apply the term "monster" to great tactical chess players. Recently, Wesley So reminded me of this when he stunned everyone with 10.Nf6+ against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a Chess960 tournament. The commenters innocently said that the error soon would be fixed, as So obviously wanted to play 10.Ne7+ and win back his sacrificed material. See the linked article for the full game score.

 

Wesley So - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Champions Showdown Tournament (Chess960). White to move (White can still castle kingside).

10.Nf6+!! was far beyond the horizon of the engines, commenters, and So's opponent. An "all-seeing eight-eyed monster" move.

In endgame studies, there obviously is no definition of what constitutes a "monster". Around 15 years ago, an anecdote was born that usually a miniature is a composition with seven pieces on the board, but for one composer (Gady Costeff, who specialized in difficult tasks) it is a composition with seven pieces not on the board. Taking that joke into account, indeed one of his ideas might count as a monster regarding the number of pieces: The following study won't qualify as a miniature.

 

Gady Costeff, Variantim, August 2018. Black to move, White wins.

A small interludium: Chess is an universal language. Among other such "languages" are usually scientific knowledge and ideas such as mathematics and physics. Here often monsters are used for thought experiments, such as Laplace's Demon, or Schroedinger's Cat - after all, you would have to be a monster to subject a cat to such an experiment if it really happened.

Some such monstrosities show us great beauty, but if you would consider a long unsolved problem a monster, then its tamer is Lisa Piccirillo who - not seeing what was so difficult about the Conway knot - solved a 50 years unsolved mathematical problem in a weekend. That specific knot was an invention by John Horton Conway and the last of its kind to remain unsolved.

John Horton Conway's "Game of Life" had amateur mathematician Richard K. Guy as one of its greatest fans. Guy composed, versions and corrections included, 238 entries in the endgame studies database of Harold van der Heijden 2020. He might also have taken one of the longest pauses, as he has no published study from 1955 to 1995 (or after his 1996 book). So 230 of the entries were from 1936 to 1954.

The Game of Life is a monster itself, it prevented me last year from writing an article about Guy, as I am unable to properly explain his contributions there. If I write it in the future, I'll have to omit his most significant work outside of chess. But going down a rabbit hole with annual contests for new discoveries, forums with specialists who discuss what size in scope or time is yet unexplored for repeating patterns, in the end leads to information that goes far beyond my comprehension. So for now, only a small and easily understandable gem from his chess work is included in the replayable entries.

Another topic:

My youth, the 1990s, was a golden era for video games. I played quite some of the classics, and on the console I had some great JRPGs appeared. One of them received a "brother" created in the United States, which featured a boss fight on a chessboard against a knight. While the boss battle was rather forgettable, for me the idea of having chess combined with other video game mechanics was quite fun. The action RPG with that boss battle is not available on any legal digital distribution, as far as I know, but its "older sister" game was remade a few years ago and rereleased on digital stores. It featured a recognizable knight as a regular enemy (the linked image is from the remake).

One thing common to those games, and others on all consoles, is that the enemies were usually called "monsters". As such, this is a different kind of chess monster. So if there are any video game developers, especially such who create RPGs, among our readers, I'd like to ask them to creatively add chess pieces as enemies.

While I showed it earlier in this series, I believe that - next month being its 100th anniversary - it is appropriate to show a famous Kubbel study again where the knight becomes a small monster that eats everything. Good appetite! Try solving it if you want.

 

Leonid Kubbel, Listok Kruzhka Petrogubkomunni, 20 November 1921. White to move and win.

Some of the studies by Otto Titusz Bláthy that run like clockworks could also be considered monsters. With some reaching over 200 moves, it is easy to see why the positions aren't the most "realistic" from a game standpoint. I thought I quiclöy wrote about him for an article in this series but don't find that. Instead, when I looked if I ever had any information about him published I found an older article by Frederic Friedel where we see that Bláthy had an asteroid named after him. So the research here bore a small fruit. Some external research for this series remains fruitless, such as when I wrote to the FSB archive about Pogosyants (I never received any KGB files on him). Thankfully, my overhead is small and usually everything I write about is added to the article. As such, the articles aren't a bureaucratic monster. On the other hand - see the corrections after this article - perceptive readers debunk wrong information I had - and such information indeed is a monster that sits in the brain, you don't know where you read it, but you had saved it as true, and accidentally spread a false account of history.

Back to Bláthy: If the following study - originally a mate problem - is a monster is left to decide for the readers.

 

Otto Titusz Bláthy, Deutsches Wochenschach 1889. White to move and win.

(Illegal position, no 50 move rule)

Due to duals, the solution should stop after 266 moves.

We leave the realm of chess now and get to the realm of horror that is associated with spooktober and with Halloween. Or rather not, as the ghosts we will see are those not of people but of particles.

I am fascinated with time travel stories of quite different genres, be it thought provoking modern tales such as "Red Letter Day" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, epic novellas like "Palimpsest" by Charles Stross, or the classical "Brooklyn Project" by William Tenn. Many of those stories have a kind of monster, and it certainly is humans if it isn't time travel itself. While time travel, especially into the past, remained theoretical for most of history, the 2010s have brought great breakthroughs in that regard, proving that time travel is indeed a reality: Entangling photons that don't exist at the same time was discovered. Does this scare you yet? If not, there is one experiment that should: Can a future choice affect a past measurement's outcome? The obvious answer is that this is impossible. But then, everything we know about quantum physics is impossible, and as such: Yes, the future choice does affect the past measurement's outcome.

Sometimes I wonder if there would be hints about such things in the past. What if we could send endgame study ideas into the past? It was well established that the first ever correct Allumwandlung - the promotion to all different pieces - in an endgame study was by Harold Lommer in 1933. But six years earlier, Sigurd Clausen tried it, and his study, deemed correct at the time, was not widely reprinted, ti seems. While in no way it can be insisted that there is time travel at work, this is how a proof of time travel could look like in endgame studies. Replayable below, as such, is a correction by Stephen Rothwell, 21 years after the flaw in the original study was published. Shortly after the discovery of the flaw, corrections were made, but Rothwell's looks a tad more elegant.

So what do you think? Which of the studies would you classify as monstmonstmonnoitforcesmetoaddanotherstudyandwillenteryoualsoifyoureadthis

I must add a cross made of Bone from the grave. Only then is my work finished.

Closing this article, we have one more message to share with you:

We now return control of your monitor setup to you, until next month at its last Saturday, when the ChessBase website will take you to... Study of the Month.

Corrections

Our readers pointed out two corrections to the "Schwalbe" article last month:

On 26 September 2021, our reader brian8871 pointed out a dual in the endgame study by Jürgen Fleck. I wrote that I didn't understand the first few moves, and it seems that this might be because the study is not working as intended by the author. Let's have a look together.

 

Jürgen Fleck, "Schach" 1995, 2nd prize. Analysis diagram.

This position happens in the variation 2.Nd2 Bf6 and Black should win. Now, brian8871 just waits with 3.Kb4, and it turns out that Black won't win. Frits Fritschy suggested 3.-Rc3, but then 4.Bf4 with the idea 5.Be3 and 6.N:f3 is surprisingly difficult to counter.

Sacrificing the exchange with 3.-Bc3+ 4.Kb5 B:d2 5.K:c6 leads to a draw as well.

So it seems that there is indeed a cook with 2.Nd2 Bf6 3.Kb4! Rc3 4.Bf4 Rd3 5.Kc5(!) Bh4 6.Kc4, drawing. Readers are welcome to improve the play for Black here, but currently it seems that Fleck's study is dualistic.

While we have to thank brian8871 for his chess contribution, we also have to thank Aloys Schweighofer, who agreed to have his name published, for an important historical correction. Unfortunately - to get back to the "monsters" theme - false stories are monsters that are hard to be defeated, and I fell for one I had read somewhere and taken as true. Sadly, it turns out that I gave a very wrong account of historical events, and I want to apologize for this mistake that I did in good faith without knowing the truth.

The German law system has a construct named "Versicherung an Eides Statt". This is a promise that the account given is true, with the same penalty as if an oath was taken. The American legal system would call this "under penalty of perjury".

After World War II, the "Entnazifizierung" (de-nazification) process tried to find out if Germans were involved in war crimes. Ado Kraemer had been examined as well, and witnesses stated in such promisory notes, i.e. under penalty of perjury, that Ado Kraemer and Erich Zepler weren't in contact between 1935 and 1948. Below we reproduce the account of Zepler:

Statement

„I have known Dr. A. Krämer for several years and have been all the time with him on very friendly terms. Although our common chess interest formed a large part of our conversation, we often spoke of the political events in Germany, especially after the Nazis had come  to power.

Dr. Krämer always knew, because I had told him so, that I was a Jew of race, but this fact had never influenced him in any way. When the persecution of the Jews began in April 1933, he was deeply ashamed of it, and he frankly told me so. He continued his friendship with me so openly that I repeatedly warned him not to jeopardize his position unnecessarily, but he would never listen. He considered it his task to exert a moderating influence within the Nazi circles and to help those who were persecuted as much as possible.

In November 1935 I left Germany very suddenly because I knew I was in danger. Since that time I have lost contact with Dr. Krämer, but I am convinced that he has remained the same decent man I knew him to be and that he has taken no part in those atrocious things which have shocked the world.”

Interestingly, "all the time" has been striked through by Zepler. Schweighofer adds further information about Kraemer's time during the first half of the 1940s, where he adds that not much is known about Kraemer's time working in the field of agricultural education. Especially there is no documentation, no witnesses, no neutral sources about that time from 1941 to 1945 in Posen. There however is also no evidence that Kramer would have participated in any acts of violence or war.

Due to Kraemer's personal connections and position it is likely that he knew about the genocide that happened against 150,000 Sinti, Roma, jews (likely without having any power to save anyone). As such he might have been an important witness, although he apparently never talked about it.

A young proof game talent

While not entirely fitting to the article series, I wanted to share this with interested readers, all others may ignore this "after-article section".

Since mid-2020 Andrew Buchanan (Singapore) holds a Zoom meeting with chess composers from all around the world at the fourth Saturday each month. One of the regular participants is the young proof game* composer Anirudh who baffles us with his ideas, leading to difficult solving efforts.

I now found that ChessBase India, whose Satanick Mukhuty also attended a few meetings, has a video about Anirudh Daga: IM Sagar Shah interviews the young talent.

* A proof game is a composition where the position of a game after x moves is given and the moves leading up to it have to be found. There are many themes that are typical to the genre, for example there are positions where it can be proven that original pieces were captured and promoted pieces went to the squares of the original pieces. Usually proof games are "shortest proof games", i.e. no shorter solutions are allowed to reach a certain position, similar to other genres. In rare cases, however, this is not the case, and a longer solution is unique while a shorter one isn't. Take the position after 1.e4 e6 2.Bb5 c6 3.B:c6 d:c6 as an example. This is easy enough to reach after three moves, even in different ways (such as 2.Bc4 and 3.B:e6). But Tibor Orbán presented it as a proof game in "Die Schwalbe" 1976, receiving a commendation for it. The challenge came from his stipulation to reach the position after exactly four moves, i.e. eight half-moves, starting from the initial position of the game.

Issue 3 of Jeff Coakley's "The Puzzling Side of Chess" contains this and other proof games in four moves.

One of Anirudh's proof games is below. It was just published. The young author selected it for this article.

 

Anirudh Daga. Shortest Proof Game in 18.0 moves. Published at the WCCC Bulletin 2021. Champagne Tourney, Rhodes 2021.

The stipulation asks for 18 moves of both sides, who cooperate to reach the diagram position. His proof games are extremely difficult to solve, so only experienced solvers or those willing to sink some time into it should attempt this. All others should replay the final entry below and just enjoy and wonder why this is the only way to reach this position in the allotted amount of time. A few solving hints - actually just the observations that can be made from the diagram - are below.

Solving hints: Your first hint that something is wrong with the diagram is that there is a rook on b6 that can't have come there from a8. So you can conclude that one of the black pawns promoted. The rest is just an enigma. Start by counting the number of moves Black needs to reach his position, especially note that Pc6, Rb6 and Qa6 obstruct each other, so you can't just blindly count "7 moves to promote on g1 or h1, move to b6, then 1 move for c7-c6 and 2 moves for Qa6", as the queen can't jump over Rb6. Only counting pieces still on the board, and assuming minimum movement, you have two moves for Na5 from b8. Two moves for Be3. Kf5 and Rf8 require together four moves. That makes 8 moves. So 10 moves are left to get Qa6, Rb6 and Pc6 into their positions - but we just established that this does not work due to the pieces obstructing each other. As we can't reduce any moves of N, B, K, Rf8 - they need 8 moves together - something about Qa6, Rb6, Pc6 must be different from as it seems at first. White needs 3 moves for Qd1 to get to a8. If Qa8 is promoted, it didn't promote on b8, so that would require even more time. But somehow with White's 18 moves, he has to solve the mystery of the configuration on the sixth rank.

The WCCC bulletin misprinted Anirudh's name in its first version. As of writing this, that is the current version. It is downloadable as PDF here: WCCC bulletin (ca. 7 MB)

If you are interested in solving, instead of reading through the file, you might want to print pages 7 and 8 to have the Open Solving diagrams without solutions. There seem to be only pages with solutions for the other solving events (World Chess Solving Championship; Fairy Solving), not ones without that could be used for personal solving training.

So let me end the additional informations with a call for action: If you are solving tournament directors, please make your solvable sheets (i.e. the diagrams without solution but with instruction on time limit etc.) available for people who want to try their hands at solving tourney training.

 

Links:


Siegfried (*1986) is a German chess composer and member of the World Federation for Chess Composition, subcommitee for endgame studies. His autobiographical book "Weltenfern" (in English only) can be found on the ARVES website. He presents an interesting endgame study with detailed explanation each month.
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Lovuschka Lovuschka 11/3/2021 05:10
Good evening! You are correct, you have found another undiscovered cook (dual).
Apologies, I don't check comments every day, so as I prepare the German translation I looked here again. Indeed sacrificing the queen on g8 or h8 wins for White. I can't believe this wasn't spotted by the author of the correction - I met Stephen Rothwell once or twice, I remember talking to him about some castling ideas, we didn't talk about the Clausen study. That must have been around 2007, maybe 2009, memories fade after years. Pleased to have attentive readers who spot my mistakes and tell them - only that way I can improve. Here I blindly trusted the database that didn't have a cook listed.

The matrix used for the other correction avoids this issue, and I will add that one instead to the German article:

wKa1, Be8, Pa6, b2, e6, f5, f7, g6 - bKf8, Qh5, Ra7, Pb3, b4.
White to move and win. Correction of the Clausen study by Alexander Hildebrand, Tidskrift för Schack, May 1985

Your comment will be forwarded by me to Harold van der Heijden for inclusion in the next version of his database (likely coming in 2025). So at least then people can avoid the mistake I made. :-)
erony erony 10/30/2021 09:13
Good evening Siegfried.
About Clausen, what happens on 2...Kh6 3 f8Q+ (instead of f8B) Kh7 4 Qh8+ (instead of Bxh5) Kxh8 5 Bxh5 with an easy win ?
Lovuschka Lovuschka 10/30/2021 04:46
Alternatively, the king is close enough to reach the Ponziani win. 11.f8 h2 12.Kg4 h1Q 13.Qf3+ Kg1 14.Qe3+ Kf1 15.Qc1+ Kg2 16.Qd2+ Kf1 17.Qd1+ Kg2 18.Qe2+ Kg1 19.Kg3, etc.
Michael Jones Michael Jones 10/30/2021 12:27
I think the first solution requires a little more explanation, since after 11. f8Q h2 it reaches Q vs RP on the seventh rank which is usually a draw. Looks like in this case it's the "staircase" checks which force a win - 12. Qa8+ Kg1 13. Qa7+ Kg2 14. Qb7+ Kg1 15. Qb6+ Kg2 16. Qc6+ Kg1 17. Qc5+ Kg2 18. Qd5+ Kg1 19. Qd4+ Kg2 20. Qe4+ Kg1 21. Qe3+ Kg2 22. Qe2+ Kg1 23. Kg4 h1Q 24. Kg3 when Black has no check and no stalemate trick (24... Qxf3+ 25. Kxf3, not Qxf3 stalemate). If the Black king ever moves anywhere other than g1 or g2, White just plays Qh1 and picks up the pawn. Is that right?
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